Why is Catarella allowed to have any part in the operation of the station? He'd be an encumbrance even if moved to toilet-cleaning duties. Why does Montalbano never seem to have any means of communicating with the rest of the force on him? It's not that he can't get a signal since he's never shown to try! Why does he appear to operate outside the rest of the force in his own time and to his inclinations? He's more like a private eye than a policeman. Catarella is almost certainly a “raccomandato”, i.e., someone who got his job thanks to connections rather than going through a rigorous interview and testing process (in Portuguese would be harder to translate; I don’t there’s a noun for that; for the action, yes; it’s called “meter uma cunha”, meaning literally “to pull strings for somebody”). It happens an awful lot. But Catarella does crack computer codes, week in week out, so he's good at something!
The Catarella thing is very much a reflection of the spirit of Montalbano’s books... He's there because he's loved, not because he's good. I remember one of Camilleri’s novels where a lawyer, I think he was called Leone, complained to Montalbano about Catarella's telephone manners and Montalbano got annoyed and defended him. It's about the laxness of process and the human interconnectedness; it's about peasantry rather than urbanism. Catarella is one of the running themes that leavens what might be a depressing view of Mediterranean corruption and violence. Irritating he might have been, but he has by now become a welcome feature.
I myself find the chauvinistic attitude towards women a bit cringing but then again, it does reflect Italian society. I know, by the way, I am not Italian. I’m Portuguese, but the Mediterranean culture is still there. There is also a whole sphere lost in translation. The characters that speak only in dialect and the socioeconomic layer hidden to the English-speaking public. Also, many jokes are translated as they can but often, are totally changed as they are untranslatable. It's such a good representation of the idyllic dissonance of Italy (and the Mediterranean culture in general).
I really enjoy Montalbano, especially in the Summer. Once upon a time I had a German teacher who also spoke Italian and she kept telling me that much of the humour and charm is in the use of Sicilian dialect; which of course is lost on me (I can pick up lots of Italian, but Sicilian? No way! It’s another ball game). She suggested that we only catch the slapstick or obvious comedic sketches and that there was a much richer seam of humour and intrigue that had been lost in translation. To command only three languages, Portuguese, English and German, is really a pain in the proverbial place (I know; it sounds like boasting, but it really isn’t…)